Etienne (Steve) Sepulchre has been sailing since he was a youngster growing up in Belgium and spending Easter and summer holidays in Brittany.
Heather Holm has always loved spending time on the water, but most of her adventures took the form of canoeing and canoe camping in Nova Scotia and in Ontario – until she met Steve. She jokes that she married a boat and the boat keeps changing, but at least the man stays the same, which is the important thing.
When Steve was 12, after finishing his sailing course with Kervoile in Saint-Pierre-Quiberon, he and a friend his age sailed in the popular race “Les quatre heures de Carnac” on his friend’s 420, being both the youngest entrants in the race. They raced again the two following years in the same event on a 490, heftier than the 470, however not as popular.
His own sailboat at the time was a traditional wooden Armor 360, ideal for learning to become responsible for a basic wooden sailboat’s maintenance needs, for fine-tuning the art of patiently negotiating light and fickle winds and for just pleasant outings close to shore. A couple of years later he and his family were sailing a Ponant complete with trapeze. Sailing was becoming real serious with the Ponant as that sporty sailing dinghy enticed Steve, family and friends to sail in heavier winds and choppier sears further away from shore. With the Ponant came new abilities: steering with care and greater precision in order to make life easier for the crew member on trapeze, i.e: avoiding upwind-side splash-downs and front stay wrap-arounds as a result of sudden decelerations, etc., trying to maintain surfing speeds as long as possible by using following waves as kickers, marshalling enough beach friends to carry the heavy Ponant in and out of the water before and after each sail outing (until they got fed up with it and we finally realized that putting the Ponant on a mooring was the way to go), dealing with more demanding maintenance issues and participating in informal local beach sailing races.
Two years later, Steve’s started coastal cruising on the family’s RC-20, a 24 foot cruising sloop which he sailed up and down the southern coast of Brittany with family and friends, thereby acquiring such useful skills as night navigation and flying the spinnaker in large swells and challenging winds outside sheltered waters, or coping with unexpected situations at sea. Among these were running out of food and money far away from their home base, being becalmed without gas for the auxiliary engine under an intense sun when a swarm of insects lost at sea decided to land on the deck of the RC-20 forcing the crew in a hasty retreat inside the sweltering cabin with all hatches and cabin doors closed for hours until the wind came up again and the insects flew away. The scariest moments, in retrospect, occurred while crossing the approaches to Nantes harbour in the dark, heading for the peace and quiet of “Ile-d’Yeu” island further down the coast. The night traffic of heavy freighters and large fishing vessels going in and out of Nantes was something serious to contend with. How we slipped through that amount of traffic, at nearly right angles, without being overrun by one of these merchants ships remains a bit if a mystery. To make our presence known, we would regularly light up our mainsail with a powerful flashlight. That is perhaps why I am still here writing in this blog.
Later, while a student in Canada, he was sailing his own Laser on the Ottawa River. Then he and a brother shared a Tanzer 26 for three years, followed by a Beneteau First 325 that they sailed on Lake Champlain (NY) for 4 years.
His next boat was a trailerable Sandpiper 565 which was large enough for two adults to cruise on in relatively calm conditions while providing an escape from hot summer days and nights on the Ottawa River. He towed the Sandpiper to Nova Scotia in 1999 and fell in love with beautiful Mahone Bay, just as he had already fallen in love with Heather, who happily adopted his seafaring ways and became his Mate in more ways than one.
One thing led to another, and Steve and Heather found themselves wanting a bigger and more stable sailboat so that their young son could play inside the cabin without bumping his head on the coachroof. With their Grampian 26, they started to venture outside of Mahone Bay.
That eventually led to a new Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 323, which they sailed along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia as far as Baddeck in the Bras d’Or Lakes, Cape Breton, and in the opposite direction to Lunenburg, LaHave, Liverpool and Port Mouton, until selling it in 2010.
They had a Tanzer 22 for a while, and lately have been seen sprucing up a friend’s Mirage 30.
Last but not least, we are grateful to Ed Sulis for allowing us to post his useful Tips & Tricks that formerly appeared on the local Bluenose Squadron website of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS). Ed has acquired a vast knowledge and experience of sailing as well as boat repair and maintenance as a long-time coastal and bluewater skipper, and as a CPS organizer and instructor. Ed even sailed during sea-trials on the Open 60 “Spirit of Canada” with which Canadian racer Derek Hatfield gave the 2008-2009 Vendée-Globe solo round-the-world race a real good try.
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Blue skies and safe sailing to all!